Fidelity and Hermes join calls for Sports Direct chairman Hellawell to go

Sports Direct is bracing for yet another stormy encounter with shareholders on Wednesday as Hermes and Fidelity join the pack of independent investors and advisory groups rebelling against chairman Keith Hellawell.
Former police chief and drugs tsar Keith Hellawell has committed to stepping down from the board if the majority of independent investors revolt again at Sports Direct's annual meeting, which could spell further boardroom upheaval for the sportswear retailer.
Fidelity, which owns a 6pc stake in Sports Direct, is understood to be voting against Mr Hellawell - joining Aberdeen Standard Investments, Royal London and Legal & General is rebelling against the longstanding chairman.
Glass Lewis, Pirc and the Institutional Shareholder Service have all recommended shareholders vote against Mr Hellawell’s re-election.
However, the chairman will have some support from investor Phoenix Asset Management which is supportive of Mike Ashley’s achievements and backs his team.
Hermes however has said that it “greatly concerned about the lack of one-to-one engagement” with Sports Direct and said the absence of any individual meetings “falls short of best practice and creates a multitude of missed opportunities to build positive and constructive relationships with interested third party minority shareholders.”
Fidelity and Hermes join calls for Sports Direct chairman Hellawell to go

Keith Hellawell, chairman, Sports Direct
Leon Kahmi, head of responsibility at Hermes Investment Management, said he was “very disappointed” by chief executive Mike Ashley’s decision to shun the once-a-year investor meeting.
The retailer announced two weeks ago that the sportswear tycoon would not be available at the meeting “due to conflicting demands for his time in other areas of the business”.
A Sports Direct spokesman said there had been a lengthy question and answer session with analysts and investors about strategy at the company’s full year results, when it reported a 60pc plunge in profits but Mr Ashley unexpectedly raised future earnings guidance.
However, Hermes has said that the AGM provides the opportunity for Mr Ashley and the board to update on its promise of implementing improvements in its working practices report and review into corporate governance.
Sports Direct reneged on an earlier pledge to hire an independent firm to undertake the reviews and has instead enlisted law firm RPC, which has a long relationship with Mr Ashley and Sports Direct, to carry it out.
Fidelity and Hermes join calls for Sports Direct chairman Hellawell to go

A warehouse tour following Sports Direct's 2016 annual general meeting degenerated into somewhat of a farce after Mike Ashley emptied his pockets during a security check to show a wad of 50 pound banknotes
Unite, the workers’ union, has recently criticised Sports Direct’s survey of employees which it says breaches anonymity when negative feedback is given while the Trade Union Share Owners (TUSO), is also urging investors to vote against Hellawell’s reappointment because of the lack of a fully independent review of working standards and ongoing concerns about safety issues.
There has also been no update on corporate governance since January when Mr Ashley used his majority stake to save Mr Hellawell from defeat from minority shareholders and the company said its board would review its governance following “continuing frustrations”.
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